2016 Olympic champion Oleg Verniaiev has been cleared to return to competition, effective immediately, after his doping suspension was cut in half.
The Ukrainian, who won gold on parallel bars at the 2016 Games, tested positive for the banned substance meldonium in August 2020 and was originally banned for four years from that November (see below for our original coverage of the case). At the time, international gymnastics competitions were essentially non-existent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Verniaiev was unable to participate in the postponed Tokyo Games in 2021 due to the suspension. He denied wrongdoing and appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
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On Tuesday, CAS halved his sentence to two years, meaning he has already completed at the suspension and can return to competition immediately. His original suspension commenced on November 5, 2020.
Verniaiev argued he tested positive because of “contaminated food products,” CAS said. While the judges decided his violation was upheld, they agreed there were “grounds for a reduction in the period of ineligibility.” There was no further explanation in the brief CAS statement issued to the public, but the full ruling should be published in due course.
“It was a long process, during which I proved that I had no intention to doping,” Verniaiev wrote on Instagram. He signed off his post “Citius. Altius. Fortius.” — the Olympic motto and Latin for “faster, higher, stronger” — alluding to his return ahead of the 2024 Paris Games.